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Get off the Xbox and Speak to Real Humans

The standard cry of parents across the globe and with school holidays around the corner it will become a battle cry for many.

As a coach I am known for helping people with their businesses; that’s why people come to REAL. But why do they stay? Simply put because of all of the other stuff that’s talked about, learned about and actioned in new and different ways.

Over the last few months this the topic of gaming and screen time is something that has come up a lot with both clients and with friends and it struck me that we as the parents are looking at this in a way that doesn’t compute with our kids… and you know what when we were teenagers we would have ‘got it’ either.

So, for the benefit of the next few minutes I want you to cast your mind back to being 14; it really helps to actually take yourself so here goes... complete with grainy 1080's Trueprint photo!

When I was 14 it was 1989 (ffs how does that even make sense I am only about 22 surely) I was in year 10 (we called it fourth year back then) and essentially I was known for talking too much, being both distracted and distracting in my lessons and I lived for my friends. I was listening to Iron Maiden, The Cure and all sorts of other ‘real’ bands, The Little Mermaid was out at the cinema (my friend and I took our little sisters to the cinema to see it; what a great excuse that was to go because otherwise I would have been way too cool to go and see a Disney film). Gorbachev, Thatcher and Bush were ending the cold war and for about 50p you could buy a can of Coke and a Mars Bar.

I was mainly being told off for putting my friends for anything else, being mean to my sister or having my nose in a book (imagine that now, telling your child off for reading a book). I would be told off for phoning people after school as ‘you have been with them all day’ and remember in 1989 it was virtually against the law to go near before a phone before 6pm and even if you did the phone was in the hallway (with an actual cord) so not much in the way of privacy… if you find it hard to build a picture like this then google the year you will see the news of the day and the music that went with it which can be a really good trip down memory lane.

In the holidays and after school we went off for hours (it felt) and we did whatever we wanted (or so we believed) to be fair there wasn’t exactly a lot to do in the rural Gloucestershire village that I grew up in – we would just walk around the lanes and do the odd bit of scrumping (don’t tell anyone though). This was the big disadvantage of being in the middle of nowhere… the advantage? Well we were all regular pub goers by 16 and were early contributors to the local economy!

When I was going out there were rules and I am sure you had them too, you didn’t just walk out the door and come back when you liked… even if it feels like you did (ask your family its likely that they will remember your teenage years differently). There were a couple of places I wasn’t allowed to go and there was always a definite return time… there was no ish when I was growing up (and frankly there still isnt now) 4pm was 4pm and that was that – if I walked through the door at 405pm then I was grounded; it was simple clear and very effective.

Now come back to the present day. The world is different, the way we live is different, the way we communicate is unrecognisable. The one thing that remains the same is that we need clear and simple rules in order to be effective just like our parents did.

Imagine just for a moment the teenage you is out with your mates and your mum rocks up shouting ‘get home now, times up’ from nowhere, no rules have been set, no warning just your mum dragging you home by your arm. You would have died a thousand deaths and given your parents hell for it. That is effectively what you do every time you don’t set the rules and just expect your child to leave their mates in an instant.

My son loves his Xbox (apparently other consoles are available but I am advised that they are terrible). He loves the games and the competitive nature of the platform but most of all its where he hangs out with his mates - it is his social time. I understand that and am respectful of it; having the rules in places is the difference that makes the difference for both of us. During 2020 there have been some pretty crazy things happening – our kids have been able to maintain relationships and always have someone to talk to – bloody hell, imagine if we had been in Pandemic in 1989 we would not have seen or spoken to a soul (unless it was after 6pm with your whole family listening in).

Give these a try and see how they work for you:

* Talk about what is reasonable screen time and be prepared to negotiate so that they will in turn learn to negotiate themselves (a highly valuable skill to have)

* Find out what their friends are doing and when they are on and off (no good giving them a time they can be on if no one else is)

* Find out what they are playing (and maybe have a game yourself, get involved even if you’re shit at it it is fun)

* Decide a definite finish time AND stick to it – every single time

* Remind them before they go on what time they must come off

* Do listen in to what they are doing… it is part of your responsibility to keep them safe

* Build and encourage independence for their screen time

* This is where they are hanging out – they are going to swear, there will be banter, they will be inappropriate

* Be clear on consequences (grounding isn’t a punishment like it was for me, so being a dick will result in lost Xbox time)

It’s not groundbreaking stuff but it is the difference that makes the difference as you are talking with your child you are involving them and you are setting boundaries. To us as parents it feels weird that our young people are not seeing each other, not having ‘human interaction’ – they absolutely are just not in the same way we did. We do not understand it and we do not get it… we aren’t supposed to are we! The 14-year-old me would have been mortified to think my parents actually understood me why do we think that our children would be any different?

Our kids need to be tech savvy in this modern world, and we need to encourage them in that… not at any cost obviously which is why we need a few rules.

So next time you are hollering up the stairs that your child needs to ‘get off that bloody thing now’ remember this article and the 14-year-old you.

I would love your thoughts on this, how do you manage this in your house?

Working with REAL couldn’t be simpler just get in touch and book your discovery call.

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